No, half-and-half is not bad for you when consumed responsibly. Flavored and sweetened versions of the condiment, however, can increase toxicity.
Half-and-half, the popular American coffee creamer, consists of a mixture of whole milk and cream. While it has become a staple partner of our favorite breakfast drink, the true nutritional value and health impact of half-and-half is being called into question.
Traditional half-and-half includes minimal processing, and the primary ingredients are milk and cream. According to the USDA, a one tablespoon serving size contains 20 calories and almost two grams of fat. As long as traditional half-and-half is used in moderation there does not seem to be many negative health impacts.
The problem with half-and-half begins surfacing the more we rely on processing. Many people flock to fat-free versions of half-and-half because they get to experience the same creamy, filling texture of the full-fat product, without the caloric impact. However, this widely used coffee additive has to undergo serious processing to mimic that texture. Fat-free half-and-half relies on a product called carrageenan to make the product thick. Carrageenan has caused recent controversy in the food industry due to potential links to digestive conditions and inflammation.
Additionally, the fat-free version of half-and-half cuts down on calories by eliminating milk fat but replaces it with corn syrup and additives. Although the fat-free option cuts the caloric intake in half, the sugar and sodium added are nearly double the traditional values. Recent studies suggest that full-fat dairy products contribute less negative impacts on health than their non-fat dairy counterparts.
The problem with replacing the natural fat content of half-and-half with corn syrup is that corn syrup has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and even cardiovascular issues. Other varieties add flavor by using sugar substitutes. The more we replace natural ingredients with sugar substitutes, the more we experience negative health impacts.
Because sugar is a carbohydrate, it is meant to be used by our bodies quickly as energy, which is possible with minimal to moderate intake of sugar. However, when we begin consuming excess sugar in the form of corn syrup, our bodies use the minimum amounts of sugar for energy and store the excess sugar as fat through a process called lipogenesis. Storage of this fat over time contributes to weight gain and all of its accompanying health problems.
Traditional half-and-half is a better option when compared to non-dairy creamers. Non-dairy creamers are filled with hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, Carrageenan, and “natural” flavors. Hydrogenated oils are known for their ability to raise cholesterol, and while “natural” flavors sound appealing, these additives have questionable origins. “Natural” is a term that is not currently regulated by the FDA. In fact, a frequently used “natural” flavoring that is used to imitate vanilla flavors is called, Castoreum. Castoreum is obtained by gathering the secretions of the castor sacs of North American beavers. Castor sacs are located under the animal’s pelvic skin-- natural, but not necessarily appetizing.
When it comes to half-and-half, the traditional full-fat option is the best option. Choosing organic versions of the product will also ensure that it consists purely of milk and cream. It is important to forgo popular fat-free options or flavor enhanced varieties, as the extra sugar and oils have a greater negative impact than the traditional full-calorie product. Always choose half-and-half over non-dairy creamer to avoid additional additives that negatively impact health.
Possible short-term side effects
- blood sugar spikes
- hyperactivity and then fatigue
Possible long-term side effects
- digestive abnormalities
Ingredients to be aware of
- source of calcium
- better alternative to non-dairy creamers
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Written by DeeAnne Oldham | 05-18-2016
Written by DeeAnne Oldham
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